Chronic Inflammation: The Smoldering Fire

Dr. Tanya Hudson
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Inflammation is truly the smoldering fire that leads to a multitude of chronic health conditions, from cancer to heart disease and diabetes. Chronic inflammation can also lead to anxiety and depression.  The good news is that inflammation is preventable with healthy foods, exercise, and meditation.  Read on to learn more!

NOT ALL INFLAMMATION IS BAD

There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic.  Acute inflammation is important.  It is our body’s defense mechanism against infection, irritation, or injury.  It includes the release of white blood cells, antibodies, and proteins, as well as increased blood flow to the damaged area. It lasts a few hours to a few days.  

Chronic inflammation lasts months to years, leaving our body in a constant state of alert.  Over time, this chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on tissues and organs, playing a role in a range of conditions from cancer to heart disease and even depression.

Did you know that folks dealing with depression often have something else going on inside their bodies? Studies have revealed that these patients tend to have higher levels of sneaky troublemakers called chronic inflammatory markers, like the infamous C-Reactive Protein.

Now, hold on a sec, because this inflammation isn’t just wreaking havoc in one area. Nope, it’s like a wildfire spreading its influence. It messes with your hormones, those little chemical messengers that run the show inside your body. It even takes a jab at your neurotransmitter levels—those brain superstars responsible for keeping your nervous system on its toes.

But that’s not all. Brace yourself for the term “neural plasticity.” It’s like the brain’s secret weapon against life’s curveballs. You see, neural plasticity is all about your brain’s remarkable ability to adapt and change throughout your entire life. It’s like an ongoing renovation project, responding to new situations and environmental shifts.

So, when chronic inflammation comes knocking, it tries to throw a wrench into this beautifully adaptive process. It’s like putting up roadblocks on the brain’s construction site, making it harder for your gray matter to keep up with the ever-changing world around you.

SOURCES OF CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

The goal in treating this chronic inflammation is to find out where it is coming from.  Inflammation is mostly brought on by:

  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Altered gut permeability (AKA leaky gut)
  • Tooth decay
  • Poor sleep
  • Vitamin D deficiency

Before you get too depressed, the GREAT NEWS is that all these sources of inflammation are preventable! 

STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTING CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

  • Avoid inflammatory foods.  These include sugar (esp high fructose corn syrup), polyunsaturated vegetable oils (i.e. grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils–all high in omega-6’s), trans fatty acids (i.e. partially hydrogenated oils, margarine) found in deep fried foods, fast foods, commercially baked goods, feedlot beef (non-free range, fed with grains like soybeans and corn), excess alcoholrefined grainsartificial food additives (ASPARTAME!), and food allergens.
  • Decrease toxic exposure to pesticides (buy organic!), environmental pollution, plastics (get rid of them!), fire retardants, and cosmetic additives.
  • Repair a leaky gut (click >>>HERE<<< for a short video on leaky gut).
  • Decrease stress (see ideas below).
  • Treat any chronic infections (i.e. yeast, parasites, bacterial overgrowth).
  • Get moving!!  Exercise DECREASES inflammation!!!
  • Maintain a healthy weight (obesity promotes inflammation).
  • Take good care of your teeth.
  • DON’T SMOKE.
  • Make sleep a priority and GET HELP if you are not sleeping.  Chronic insomnia has been shown to elevate inflammatory markers.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement if you are deficient (vitamin D can help to decrease inflammation).

Stress management is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation and mindfulness is key.  But also focus on regular exercise; eat nutrient-dense, whole foods; take time in nature to FOREST BATHE (click >>>HERE<<< to see my Instagram post on the benefits of forest bathing); be aware of negative thinking and BE KIND to yourself; and think about what you can control in your day (such as making it a priority to get a peaceful 15 min lunch or a 10 min walk).